Beware of anecdotes that fit your preconceived notions.
This critic savored “Wonka,” the prequel to both Roald Dahl’s classic tome and the 1971 film featuring Gene Wilder’s iconic turn as the wry chocolatier.
So when a friend texted me her favorable review, along with how her theatrical audience felt the same way.
“Everybody left smiling,” she wrote.
That doesn’t necessarily speak to any larger trends.
World of Reel reports that “Wonka” earned just under $4 million on Monday, a hearty take from a day rarely known for movie going. The film’s robust audience score at Rotten Tomatoes – 91 percent “fresh” – suggests ticket buyers are tickled by the prequel.
And they’re coming back for more.
“Wonka” opened with a solid $39 million on the high end of realistic expectations after a wan $3.5 million from Thursday screenings. The film, starring Timothee Chalamet as the title character, tells the musical story of Wonka’s early years.
Director Paul King, who helmed two lovely “Paddington” films, keeps the tone light and frothy in “Wonka” despite heavier themes including slave-like labor. Add solid musical numbers and a hilarious turn by Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa, and the film seemed poised to stick around during the holidays.
So far, so good.
Film Threat podcasters Chris Gore and Alan Ng won’t be surprised by those numbers. The duo praised the film in their video review, but they noted something special about the presentation. The story is positive and uplifting, free of the darkness that clouds too many modern tales.
Who wants to be depressed during the holidays? That spirit gives the film some financial heft this time of year.
“It’s about overcoming the obstacles in front of you, growing a bit as a person and coming out on top at the end,” co-host Ng said. “This is the movie you take your kids to and you’ll feel good about it.”
King told NPR why he was drawn to the story and its uplifting message.
I was really interested in the way we tell young people that if you dream and you’ve got talent and you work hard, it’s all going to come true. But the world is not always like that, and it doesn’t always reward that. And I think what’s so lovely about Timothée’s performance is seeing somebody discover that the world is a harder, tougher place than they’d imagined and then getting the courage to do something about it rather than being beaten down by it.
UPDATE: Tuesday proved even better for Team Wonka:
$1M CLUB: DISCOUNT TUESDAY
1. WONKA ($6M)
2. HUNGER GAMES (1.2M)
3. THE BOY AND THE HERON ($1M)
— Exhibitor Relations Co. (@ERCboxoffice) December 20, 2023
UPDATE: “Wonka” entered 2024 strong, and it came in first again over the Jan. 5-7 weekend despite several new titles released since its Dec. 15 debut.